This friend was a lot of things, but he will be best remembered for being great at one thing in particular: the art of being interested. Why was it so remarkable that he was interested in other people? Because it’s incredibly rare – and becoming more so – to find someone who’s truly interested in others. Not waiting to tell you their story, not looking across the room to see who’s more important. Just truly, honestly interested in you.
The main reason it’s hard to be interested in others is that we really like to focus on us - especially online. While about 30% of our day-to-day conversations are about ourselves, research suggests up to 80% of social media posts are about “one’s own immediate experience.”
Harvard researchers gave people money for answering questions while they were hooked up to MRI machines. Volunteers got more money to answer factual questions or questions about other people, and less money to offer their own views on a subject. But time and time again, participants chose to receive less money in order to talk about themselves.
When the researchers looked at the MRIs, they found that the act of talking about ourselves activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from a great meal....
Or even having sex. People were willing to give up even more money when they thought their answers would be shared with another person than when they were told their responses would be kept private.
So the urge to share and be understood is extremely strong. And we suddenly have more places to talk about ourselves than ever before. When “share” becomes just another way to say “let me tell you more about me,” it’s clear social media has begun to show us something about all of us: We really want someone to listen to us. Our thoughts. Our opinions. Our experiences.
But if everyone wants to be noticed, be heard, have their opinions validated, who is doing the listening? If we’re all trying to be interesting, who is left to be interested?
Brands are eager to use social media as a broadcasting platform, but we’re not so keen on customer conversations. Study after study shows that we’re just not interested. And we’re blowing it with social media. We’re talking what’s most special about this innovative communication form and dumbing it down to the kinds of communication we’re used to: We talk, you listen. How can we go beyond that and begin to build real relationships?
Not just reacting by answering questions on Twitter or thanking people who write about you, but actually extending a conversation and creating something new. With people who who are talking about the same things you talk about, who love your brand, want to know your brand. This isn’t sales. This is genuinely being useful, likable, conversational, human. It’s what social media is tailor made for.
But i t takes some work, and results aren’t immediate. So why bother? Build a community of smart, engaged fans. Have a 24/7 focus group that actually cares. Use insights you’ll gain to create better content and products. Become known as a great company to do business with and do something that’s kinda revolutionary. Because a conversation you build in good faith is real, and people are acutely aware of what’s real.
So how does it work? W hat we’re talking about here is just like making friends in the offline world. The way you meet and evaluate new people every day, and the ones you like, you take those first little steps – a cup of coffee, drinks after works – that eventually become the basis of a relationship. Just like in real life, it’s an ongoing, rolling process that takes place at human scale because it takes real human contact – just a handful of new people at a time.
Our 5-step process is all about discovering people, making contacts, and building strong relationships. But unlike in your daily life, social media adds a lot of noise and distance, so we need to add some specific strategies to help us figure out who’s important and how to focus on them.
Depending on your industry and your goals, there are lots of different groups you might want to focus on in terms of building relationships. The main questions you want to ask yourself are: • Who’s looking for you? • Who’s talking about you? • Who has questions you can answer? • Who’s important to you and your niche?
Every brand has advocates that go above and beyond: they blog about you, go to bat for you online, refer you business, share your news. Your fans aren’t your cheerleaders – this is an elite group. A recent study on Facebook engagement shows that most of the fan activity on your Facebook page is coming from a tiny 6% of your total fan base. But that 6% is incredibly important: they’re your Superfans. One Superfan commands engagement equal to that of 75 fans. Pay attention
Again, we’re talking about an elite group – though they don’t have to have a million fans or followers. Some social media monitoring for specific industry keywords should show you the people making waves on the topics that are important to you and where you want to build your own value. Can be THE go-to source in your community or more of a mid-level influencer. Smart, interesting, people you want to get to know.
People looking for a product or service like yours are on social media every day, having conversations that relate to what you do and asking questions you can likely answer. Again, strategic social media monitoring can help us find them and tune into these conversations, but the trick is to learn how to listen to them thoughtfully before talking to them meaningfully.
Press, blogs. Everyone wants to be in the New York Times or on Mashable or on CNN, but to do that you’ve got to have relationships with the press before you need something. So it’s important to know who’s covering your industry so we can begin building that relationship without asking for anything in return.
Digital stalking, but in a much less creepy way. Doing our homework.
Connect with them everywhere you can passively- -no contact yet. Subscribe to their blogs, follow them on every social media network – Twitter lists, Facebook interest lists, RSS – and just listen. Make them part of your daily Internet rounds, so you can get to know them, their personality, their content, their circle, without doing much more than what what you were already doing.
A big part of the art of being interested is remembering the details. Remember names. Remember where people were born. Remember their kids. It seems so small, but nobody does this stuff anymore because we’re such a big, disconnected world. For particular conversations or facts you may want to recall later, a CRM system can be great, or you can use a spreadsheet or a notepad.
We’ve chosen these people for a reason, so we’re not doing this halfway. There’s no automatic software that can be interested in others for you; you’ve got to dedicate real and meaningful time to it. Relationships will always be built by hand: conversation by conversation, step by step. This can’t be a task on a to-do list. This has to be your new way of doing business.
Asking good questions is the biggest secret weapon we have as marketers. It lets people talk about themselves, which we’ve established is our favorite thing to do. It makes people feel valued, and like you more. Meanwhile, we’re getting incredibly valuable intelligence. But you’ve got to do it right, which means being an empathic listener. Don’t attempt to relate everything back to you. Try to understand what it’s like to be them in their situation. Ask customers what their biggest problems are. Interview influencers on your blog. Ask a prospective customer what questions you can answer for them – and mean it. Ask questions on your social media platforms and use the community as a sounding board and blog fodder.
From your great questions and empathetic listening, you’re going to hit on the biggest wants and needs of your new friends. What might they want? Promotion. Help. Resources. Answers. Offer all of that up with the same enthusiasm you would go get it for yourself. Share fan photos or an influencer’s great analysis. Comment thoughtfully on journalists’ work. Be an objective resource for prospective customers. Find the right ratio: Overboard is creepy, but a reasonable amount is flattering. Look for the best opportunities: pet projects and causes.
Going to be sharing a lot of content. Take time to not only consume it but also add something to the discussion –this is where community comes from. What you learned from that video, your favorite tip from that article or even a opposing point of view. Facebook did a study of journalists who share stories there, and found that links that included analysis had a 20% higher click-through rate. What’s the context they need to know about the story? Gives them a taste of who you are while showing that you’ve done the legwork to engage and get to know them a little better.
Connection doesn’t always have to be business-related. Social media is a series of breadcrumbs we give people to help them get to know us better, so look for opportunities to let your quirks show. “Passion points” – an interest you have in common, a band you both love. 3 conditions sociologists consider crucial to making friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
Some of these groups you’ll maybe never reach out to for anything - you just want to know them because they’re interesting or influential or a big fan. For others, you’ll eventually be working your way up to asking for something: a request for press coverage, a link, a guest post. No matter what the ask is, it’s possible if you’ve earned a relationship
Which makes this step the easiest of all. You’ve built the groundwork for a genuine relationship, and the research you’ve done should make sure that what you’re asking is reasonable. All that’s left to do is be specific about exactly what you want and thorough in providing everything your new friend could possibly need to make it happen.
The relationship isn’t over once you’ve gotten what you asked for. Every day, we’re fighting the “shallowing hypothesis,” a theory psychologists are finding new data to support right now, that says the rapid-fire social media interactions we have every day are lowering our interest in “reflective thought.” In other words, social media is literally trying to make us shallower every day! Fight that. Build with each interaction to make the next one more meaningful. Keep remembering details. Keep being interested. The roots for a strong relationship are there; it's up to us to grow it.
Once you get the hang of doing this, you’re going to notice that the people around you – your customers, community and employees – have some amazing stories. Tell them, and become a better marketer for it. Your community wants to be part of the conversation, and these stories humanize your brand the way nothing else can. They make you real people that someone would want to know. Put your biggest cheerleaders on a panel of VIPs who help you develop new stuff based on their ideas and experiences. Co-create initiatives and new ideas with influencers. Empower your fans to share their experiences with potential new customers.
Finally, frame all these stories and new friends in such a way that it all adds up to something bigger than any one of them would alone. Create a sense of community around your brand and what it stands for. Help members find like-minded friends and share ideas. The more interconnected a community is, the stronger it becomes.
The most precious commodity in social media - in life - is being understood. We’re all searching for someone who “gets” us. When come across one of these people, we don’t forget it. Give people your interest and you give them a sense of value. Focus on understanding others and you’ll never need to use social media like a bullhorn, because you’ll never lack for an audience. Success is a natural byproduct of being an engaged human. When you practice the art of being interested, you’ll be remembered for it.
#ID2013@RavenCourtneyThe art of being interestedCourtney Seiter | @RavenTools | @RavenCourtney
✤ “He was a great listener.”✤ “He asked real questions, probed formy thoughts...”✤ “It’s amazing to see the effect thatsomeone paying attention to otherpeople can have.”✤ “He listened, he heard, he wasinterested...”#ID2013@RavenCourtney
80% of social media posts are about ME#ID2013@RavenCourtney
Our brains reward us for talkingabout ourselves.#ID2013@RavenCourtney